Ode to Odo

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The Sellout

Hospitals don’t have the rainbow of directional lines anymore. In the days of butterfly bandages, sutures that didn’t dissolve, and nurses without accents, the admitting nurse would hand you a manila folder and you’d follow the Red Line to Radiology, the Orange to Oncology, the Purple to Pediatrics. But at Killer King, sometimes an emergency room patient tired of waiting to be seen by a system that never seems to care, and holding a plastic cup with a severed finger swimming in long-since-melted ice or staunching the bleeding with a kitchen sponge, sometimes out of sheer boredom they’ll slip over to the glass partition and ask the triage nurse, Where does that brackish-colored line lead to? The nurse will shrug. And unable to ignore the curiosity, they set out to follow a line that took Hominy and me all night to paint, and half the next day to make sure everyone obeyed the WET PAINT signs. It’s a line that’s as close to the Yellow Brick Road as the patients will ever get.

Though there’s a touch of cornflower blue in the shade, Pantone 426 C is a strange, mysterious color. I chose it because it looks either black or brown, depending on the light, one’s height, and one’s mood. And if you follow the three-inch-wide stripe out of the waiting room, you’ll crash through two sets of double doors, make a series of sharp lefts and rights through a maze of patient-strewn corridors, and then down three flights of filthy unswept stairs until you come to a dingy inner vestibule lit by a dim red bulb. There, the painted line pitchforks into three prongs, each line leading to the threshold of a pair of unmarked, identical double doors. The first set of doors leads to a back alley, the second to the morgue, and the third to a bank of soda pop and junk-food vending machines. I didn’t solve the racial and class inequalities in health care, but I’m told patients who travel down the brown-black road are more proactive.

—Paul Beatty

My Review of The Sellout

Rating:  ★★★★★

“It’s illegal to yell ‘Fire!’ in a crowded theater, right?”

“It is.”

“Well, I’ve whispered ‘Racism’ in a post-racial world.”

Unapologetically candid, brutally honest, painfully clever, and above all else, really frigging hilarious. It’s absurd how smart this book is, and absurd how absurd this book is.

I’d say The Sellout isn’t for everyone, but I think everyone should read it. If you’re not easily offended, you should read it. If you are easily offended, then you should definitely read it. Beatty pulls zero punches, gives zero fucks, and has created an absolute monster of modern social satire.